Fire trucks are the ultimate symbols of safety and protection. Ensuring that a fire truck and all its components are working as they should is what ultimately saves lives.

Historically, fire service was limited to one type of apparatus – a pump that was pulled manually by a horse or a steam-driven pump. Today, we see many types of fire-fighting apparatus such as engines, mini-rescues, foam trucks, tankers, and air and light trucks. While most of these trucks look alike at first glance, their interiors will vary and depend on the types of tools onboard. They will also operate differently and be used at varying frequencies, usually depending on the emergency. However, all trucks will have four basic areas that need to be inspected.  



Inspecting the fire truck demands a full 360° walk-around. Here is what you should be looking out for:

  • Body: Damage on the body, including dents and scrapes
  • Windows: Overall cleanliness, cracks, or chips
  • Mirrors: Secured and clean
  • Wiper blades: Secured
  • Lights: Functioning headlights, high beams, emergency lights, and hazard lights.  Check for cracks or chips in the lenses.
  • Tires: Pressure, tread depth, lug nuts secured. Overall cleanliness – no rocks wedged within the tires.
  • Compartment doors: Properly open and close
  • Exterior equipment: Exterior equipment should be secured and pose no risk of falling off.
  • License plate: If two plates are required, ensure both plates are on the truck. Ensure inspection stickers are current and present on the plate.
  • Other: Wheel chocks, pump panel, intakes, and discharge ports.



The interior always needs to be ready and safe for driving. Inspect the following:

  • Seat: Should be adjusted for proper distance and heights and within view of mirrors; mirrors may be adjusted.
  • Gauges: Fuel, air gauges, transmission oil pressure, and oil temperature
  • Switches
  • Lights
  • Sirens
  • Air brakes: Conduct a brake test. Drain air tank reservoirs. Ensure there are no leaks and all systems are working.
  • Engine fluid: oil, transmission, windshield washer, power steering, radiator, hydraulic
  • Engine belts: Check for wear and tear
  • Engine battery terminals: Check for corrosion
  • Engine hoses: Check for cracks
  • Other: Communication devices, nozzles, auxiliary outlets



Operations will vary depending on the type of fire service apparatus. For example, some rescue and ladder trucks do not have a pump, or other trucks will have special operations, such as an air cascade system. However, most trucks will have the following functions, and each should be inspected:

  • Pump – Ensure that all the pump features are working, including the pump heater, cooling function, discharge, and intake port drains, foam system, and primer.
  • Aerial devices – Inspect the ladder, ladder devices, outriggers, and related devices. For a thorough inspection, extend and rotate the aerial device fully, rotating it 360° and putting it to 0° to one side.
  • Water pipe – including nozzles
  • Sheave wheels
  • Cables
  • Ladder rails – Check for grease.
  • Communicating devices
  • Auxiliary outlets
  • Scene lights



While the precise equipment will vary by apparatus, all trucks carry some form of equipment. When checking the truck, also check all mechanical equipment is operational, including but not limited to:

  • Chain and circular saws
  • Thermal imaging cameras
  • Hydraulic extrication tools
  • Positive pressure fans
  • Hand tools
  • Defibrillators
  • Self-contained breathing apparatus


By checking the four areas, you ensure the apparatus is ready for service. It will enable you to become familiar with the equipment on it. Every firefighter and officer should be familiar with what their apparatus carries. To see some of the inspection checklists, The Checker has for fire, visit

Tags: inspection best practices, equipment maintenance


Learn how inspections can increase productivity, reduce costs, and improve safety in a systematic way that can be sustained as a competitive advantage.